Feb 28, 2013

Before commencing my studies in England I had never actually thought about heading to Ireland until a few friends of mine mentioned they were thinking of going. I am glad they did because it ended up being such a fun trip with six of my closest friends that I was studying with! The beginning of our trip began with a rush, literally and metaphorically. The seven of us arrived at the airport about 3 hours early just to make sure everything went smoothly. Once a couple of the European girls had gone to check whether we needed to check in or not, the rest of us waited at starbucks, coffee and excitement in hand. They came back a few minutes later and apparently we were good to go. After sitting at starbucks for a good 2 hours, we decided we should start making our way to the gate, we still had a while but there was no harm in being there early. So, the seven of us made our way through security without a glitch, we hung out in the departure lounge and when our flight came up on the screen, made our way down to the gate. When we got there, there was a bit of a line as the plane had just started to board, perfect timing right? Wrong. When we got to the gate three of the girls who were from the EU got through without any fuss, and then it got to the first American. The lady at the gate asked if she had her visa stamped and from the puzzled look we gave her, it obviously indicated we had no idea what she was talking about. "Wait here" she said, and pushed Kelsey aside. Then it came to Zoe, and of course she didn't have her stamp either, then Katie and lastly me. Apparently, if you aren't a part of the EU, Ryan Air  requires you to have your ticket stamped to be able to get onto the plane. Of course when the girls went up to the desk at check in to see whether we were good to go, they were all from the EU, so there was no problem... Not knowing that there were four non-EU members of us waiting to board the same flight! So, in a state of confusion and slight panic, we asked the stewardess if we had time to get the stamp.... No. We couldn't believe it. All of that time wasted doing nothing at starbucks and we had to pay for another flight to get there later than the other girls? We weren't having a bar of it. So, all of a sudden the four of started sprinting back down to the check in desk, grabbed the stamp (without her even checking our passports) ran back upstairs and ditched the water we bought for the second time before going through security. As I was the first one to get through security, I grabbed my pile of stuff in the tray without putting my coats back on or checking whether I had all of my belongings and started sprinting back to the gate. The plane was due to depart any minute so it was a risk, but a risk we were willing to take. When I arrived at the gate short of breath, the airport staff were just about to dismount the stairs to the plane. In my attempt to ask whether we made it, my ask had come out as a yell and he said we had just made it. The other girls still weren't at the gate so I screamed down the corridor as I saw their faces appear around the corner. We had made it! What were the chances!! As the four of us got onto the plane red faced and out of breath, our German and French friends looked at us with relief as they had no idea where we had gone! As we took off (only minutes after getting on board) the four of us laughed about feeling as if we were on the amazing race, because it really was such a close call.

Once we had arrived in Dublin, we checked into our hostel and off we went, ready to explore the city. Once we got our bearings, we realised that once again our accommodation was super central and walking distance to everything in the city centre. Before we did anything though it was time for lunch. We walked a few hundred metres down the road and chose a traditional Irish pub. After lunch we wanted to go on the free walking tour but because weather didn't permit, we decided to go to the National Art Gallery of Ireland. It wasn't the best thing that we could have done in Ireland because there were only a couple of exhibitions but it was quite funny for me as there was an Australian artist being exhibited at the time with all of the paintings based on Ned Kelly. None of the girls really knew anything about him so I tried to explain the tiniest bit of knowledge I had about him so they had some idea as to what they were looking at. After the art gallery, we made our way to the Guinness factory which proved to be awesome. We spent the rest of the day there and had a decent meal, free pint of Guinness and wandered through the whole factory. Zoe, one of the American girls we were traveling with is so obsessed with Guinness so she was absolutely loving life. Before coming to Ireland, we had a movie night in our flat to watch P.S. I Love You, as we knew it was based in Ireland. So, after we got back from the Guinness factory we decided it would be cool to go to Whelans Pub which is one of the main pubs in the movie. It was actually really cool with it's grungy atmosphere and funky live music.

On our second day in Dublin we decided to do a tour of countryside Ireland which was probably my favourite thing we did in Ireland. The tour first took us through Lahinch which is Ireland's surf Capital and home of Dunguaire Castle. The castle is just a small castle on top of a small hill but still so picturesque. After Lahinch we made our way to Corcomroe Abbey, one of the oldest in Ireland. We spent some time there looking around the ruins and old gravestones before heading towards the Cliffs of Moher. From Corcomroe Abbey we drove along the limestone coast and stopped at the mini cliffs (I thought these were impressive but we had seen nothing yet!)

Next stop was the Cliffs of Moher which literally blew me away. It was so windy!!! ...And the view was AMAZING. We spent a few hours at the cliffs before heading to Doolin for lunch and finally Bunratty Castle before going back to Dublin in the early evening.

When we got back from the cliffs there were a few people keen for a quiet night in so Zoe and I went to a bar not far from our hostel for a few chilled out drinks. The bar we went to was pretty hip n' fresh so we decided to sample a few of the interesting drinks they had on offer, including one with egg yolk in it. They actually ended up being delicious and we had a good time! The next day in Dublin we decided to go on the free walking tour and see the rest of the sights that we hadn't got too. The tour went for a while but was super interesting and we saw lots of the city which we wouldn't have otherwise. Once the tour had finished, we went back to one of our favourite cafes which we discovered a couple of days earlier. It was a small cafe with mismatched furniture and colour everywhere. They also served amazing coffee and sweets which was more than a bonus! (English coffee is worse than worse, so finding good coffee is always a day brightner!) Our last night in Dublin was spent at the famous temple bar district with a few other exchange students who were studying in Germany but actually from USA and New Zealand. They were really fun and invited us out with them so after a few bottles of wine and some dinner, we were off. The temple bar district is the most famous in Dublin and the prices of drinks showed it... but nevertheless we had an awesome night! On our last day, we walked around the city for the last time, saw a few more sights and basked in the last bit of Irish culture before flying back to Sunderland.  

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